A controversial bill has been in the news recently which would allow families of the victims of the September 11th attacks to sue Saudi Arabia. The bill passed unanimously by a voice vote in both the House and Senate. It’s expected to be vetoed by President Barack Obama, but thus far he’s delayed doing so.
Saudi Arabia denies any involvement in the September 11th attacks, and has threatened to divest $750 billion in U.S. assets. It’s unlikely they’d actually go through on the threat because it wouldn’t damage our economy at all. There’s a buyer for every seller.
Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, but of course that alone doesn’t implicate the Kingdom in the attacks. There was a wealth of information in the much anticipated release of the “28 pages” that the public believed contained previously unreleased information on Saudi involvement in the attacks. There actually ended up being 29 pages in total, numbered 415 through 443 as part of a broader congressional inquiry into the attacks. Some of the relevant passages stated, courtesy of Foreign Policy Magazine:
Page 415: “While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support and assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government.… [A]t least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”
Page 417: One of the individuals identified in the pages as a financial supporter of two of the 9/11 hijackers, Osama Bassnan, later received a “significant amount of cash” from “a member of the Saudi Royal Family”
On page 421, there’s reference to a redacted source indicating Saudi involvement: “a [deleted], dated July 2, 2002, [indicates] ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists inside the Saudi Government.’”
Now, a member of al-Qaida held in Gitmo is saying the same. As The Independent reported: An accused al-Qaida bomb-maker who went to college in Arizona has claimed to military officials at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he believed an unnamed member of the Saudi royal family was part of an effort to recruit him for violent extremist acts before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a newly released transcript.
Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi said a religious figure in Saudi Arabia used the term “your highness” during a telephone conversation with a man, just before urging al-Sharbi to return to the U.S. and take part in a plot against the U.S. that would involve learning to fly a plane.
It was early 2001, and al-Sharbi had only recently returned from the United States, where he had taken some flight school courses in Phoenix with two men who would become hijackers in the 9/11 attacks.
Al-Sharbi described the conversation in June to the Periodic Review Board, which assesses whether Guantanamo prisoners can be released. The Pentagon on Thursday posted a transcript, with parts blacked out, on the website of the board, which includes representatives from six U.S. agencies and departments.
The statement is convoluted and lacks important details, such as whether the “religious figure” might be close to any Saudi officials. It does not indicate who the Saudi royal might be. The term can be used for thousands of members of the Saudi royal family; al-Sharbi did not say he met the man.
According to terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann; “The Saudi royal family is quite large and diverse, and it is no secret that various members were once reputed for their patronage of Islamist causes and charities. In that light, it is hardly ridiculous that Sharbi would have encountered a Saudi royal who sympathized with al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden.”
Just a random thought: if there really was no Saudi involvement in the September 11th attacks, why are they so strongly opposed to any legislation that would allow victims to sue them? If there’s no evidence to implicate them, those lawsuits aren’t going to cost them a thing – and yet they’re willing to threaten a $750 billion divestment over it. Hm.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]